WEIRTON - The numbers are about as close as can be, and the task of stopping Madonna's dynamic duo of Ross Comis and Eliott Nero is enough to make an opposing defensive coordinator reach for the aspirin bottle.
Comis, the Blue Dons quarterback, has 1,908 yards rushing with 34 touchdowns. Nero, the running back, has 1,843 yards and 27 touchdowns.
That is quite a duo. Next up for the Blue Dons is Greenbrier West at 7 p.m. Saturday in the West Virginia Class A championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium.
"You look at their numbers and they are so close in carries and in yards," coach Doug Taylor said. "You don't do that on purpose, it just worked out that way. They complement each other so well. If a team keys on one, the other will hurt you. There have been so many games this season when teams tried to key on Ross and Eliott had come through for us."
The only thing closer than the 65 yards separating the two seniors is their friendship.
So what is a little smack talk between friends?
"We always laugh at each other over the numbers," Nero said. "If one of us has four touchdowns and the other has three, we say something to the other. We are competitive like that a little bit but it's all in fun. Truth is, we do complement each other well.
"That's the key to our success this year is we have a great team chemistry. All of us, the whole team."
Key on Comis, who gets a bulk of the attention as the quarterback and the guy who touches the ball on every play, and Nero can, and often does, hurt you.
He knows why.
"It's the offense we run," Nero said. "Our offensive line opens a lot of holes. It's up to us to get through them. They deserve a lot of the credit for the numbers we have."
Fiddle around and this Nero will burn you - in a variety of ways.
For instance, he has three punt returns for touchdowns this season, in victories against Beallsville, Bishop Donahue and Toronto.
He returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame.
He also has 26 receptions for 343 yards and five touchdowns, the most recent coming from 26 yards out in last week's 42-28 semifinal victory against Williamstown. He added 98 yards and a touchdown on the ground in that one.
Nero's numbers suggest that he would be a team statistical leader on almost any other squad.
"I don't really think about that," he said. "We've been teammates since the sixth grade when we played for Little Dons. If one of us is doing well, we'll be the first to cheer for the other. The bottom line is we want to win the state championship and that's where all our focus is right now."
Nero remembers how tough it was the last time the team left Wheeling Island Stadium, following a 42-41 loss to Wahama in the state title game.
One year later, the chance to erase that pain is here.
"I'll never forget that feeling, coming so close but coming up short," Nero said. "It was hard. From that day, we have kept that in mind. That gave us the drive coming into this year, never wanting to feel like that again. We have another chance now to make up for that and win that state title. That is the drive we've had every time we've played a game this year. Never wanting to feel like that again."
Nero knows he will get his opportunities against a defensive-minded Greenbrier West (12-1) team.
"We know they are good," Nero said. "You don't make it to this point unless you are good. They are a big, physical team and a good team."